Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics for Tazria-Metzora

HOW TO USE YOUR MOST POWERFUL WEAPON…

TORAH PORTION: TAZRIA

TAZRIA2Everyone is born with a powerful weapon, which can be used for both good and evil. This weapon grows over time, but remains small and mostly concealed. It’s bumpy, pink and slippery, but can be pulled out and put away in a blink of an eye. This weapon is your tongue. Your tongue is used to create thousands of words every day, and each word has the power to harm or to heal, to hurt or to help. We are defined by how we use our tongues and by the words that leave our lips each day.

This week’s Torah portion, Tazria, teaches us about the strength of words. The ancient Sages believed that leprosy was a punishment for slander and spreading malicious gossip. By gossiping, you hurt someone’s reputation and make them appear poorly in public. In return, you are punished with a skin disease that causes you to appear poorly before others.

Once words are released, they cannot be brought back. Your tongue is like an arrow.  Once unleashed, it cannot be withdrawn. Like arrows, words have the ability to pierce those with whom they come in contact. We must be careful with our most precious weapons, our tongues, and the words they create.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about how our words define us, and how words can be both helpful and harmful.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • When have your words hurt someone else?  How did you feel after saying something hurtful?
  • When has another person’s words hurt you? How did it feel?
  • How can you use your words to help others?
  • How will you use your most powerful weapon, your tongue?

By Yael Hammerman

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.

ATTITUDE SHOWS WHAT IS HAPPENING INSIDE…

TORAH PORTION: METZORA

TAZRIA3Attitude is crucial to living well. For both children and adults, the attitude we have has a lot to do with how we experience our life as well as how we experience one another. For example, how we approach our required tasks each day signifies a great deal about how we live our lives. If we approach them with dread and resentment as opposed to acceptance and relative good cheer, we communicate negatively to our children about how to get through life and its obligations. To teach our children well about tasks and responsibility means living well ourselves.

Our Parsha this week is about leprosy. Some commentators see leprosy as a result of spiritual illness– it is an external growth that signifies what is amiss inside. It is kind of a “Picture of Dorian Gray” phenomenon– what you look like reflects who you are.

Today, people don’t really suffer from leprosy. Nor do people in our culture generally believe that our appearances are afflicted when we suffer from spiritual illness. But perhaps attitude, as opposed to our appearance, is the external signifier of what’s happening inside. Reflecting on our approach to life and our daily attitude is one way to begin exploring the state of our spiritual health.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT the way their attitude affects how they approach their life.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What are the things you have to do every day?
  • Make a list of which things you like most, which least, and why.
  • How would you describe your attitude towards the things you have to do?
  • What can you do in your daily life to make the tasks that you like least more enjoyable?

By Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.

CREATING YOUR WORLD THROUGH LANGUAGE…

TORAH PORTION: TAZRIA

TAZRIA1Just as the world was created through language in Genesis, we all create our personal worlds every day through speech.  We can both create and destroy with words.  We can hurt other people through speaking negatively about them.  Speaking about people behind their back, we can harm reputations, and thereby even harm friendships and business.  Reputation in our very social and interdependent world is at the heart of one’s status both personally and professionally.

Jewish tradition is particularly sensitive to the power of speech and how it can be damaging.   Our Torah portion this week addresses the consequences caused by speaking negatively about others, an act that is called Lashon Hara or Evil Talk.  It includes slander, gossip, and other kinds of destructive language.

The first place to practice not engaging in Evil Talk is in the family.  Think for a moment: how do siblings talk about one another?  How does the family engage in talking about neighbors?  Within our families we may see this kind of speech as internal and therefore harmless.  However, how families speak about one another creates a model for how children will speak outside of the home about their friends. The less parents permit and model this kind of negative speech, the less likely children will use it on their own.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the Jewish prohibition of Lashon Hara or Evil Talk  and explain the negative consequences of this behavior.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Why do you think it might be important not to say negative things about others?
  • How do you feel when you find out someone has said something negative about you?
  • Why do you think people like to gossip and find it so appealing?
  • What might help you to engage in it less?

By Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.